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At the end of the year almost all frequent flyers are evaluating their elite status situations with hotels and airlines. In fact, I posted yesterday about my time as a United Silver Premier member, and am currently on a quasi-mileage run to finish earning United Premier Platinum status for 2013. A post by my friend The Points Guy yesterday about his decision regarding whether or not to push for top tier status with Hyatt this year got my attention. Hyatt is my hotel program of choice, so there was no question for me as to whether or not I was going to re-qualify for Diamond status for 2013, but his post reminded me of a few things I wanted to point out in terms of how I maximized some stays I needed to re-qualify.
First, a very brief refresher on Hyatt Diamond status and why it is worth all this fuss in the first place. For me, hotel elite status is way more important than airline elite status because you generally spend more time in the hotel on a family trip than you do on an airplane. So, the perks you get from the hotel have a greater impact than what seat you get while flying. With a family, having a suite upgrade, lounge access for snack, free breakfast, etc. are very tangible benefits that impact the trip (and budget) in a meaningful way. On my most recent trip to NYC, my family made a dinner out of the evening appetizers in the Grand Club at the Grand Hyatt NYC. This easily saved us at least $50. We also had breakfast the following day in the club, again this saved us real money. If you count the drinks/snacks we picked up in the club, it is not a stretch at all to say that we saved at least $100 on our one-night stay by having that access. This doesn’t even count the ridiculous suite we got by using our confirmed Diamond upgrade at this hotel.
Later that week we stayed at the Andaz Fifth Avenue and fully maximized the $75 daily breakfast benefit via room service both days because of our Diamond status. Again, that is real money saved. This is in addition to the 1,000 point Diamond amenity bonus for each stay, 30% bonus on base points earned, free internet, etc. Multiply these savings out over a full year and it makes a significant difference on many of our trips.
I travel a good amount, but this year I didn’t hit 25 Hyatt stays by accident. I hit about 21 stays naturally, and then had to push to get the final four stays. If I had the Hyatt Credit Card (which I am waiting to get to coincide with a trip to Paris to use my two free nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome), then putting $40,000 in spending annually on the card would get me 5 stay credits. Tip: see if you get an offer that includes a $100 statement credit for the Hyatt card while you are making a Hyatt reservation online. However, I don’t have the card, and that level of spending is out of my league anyway.
So, that meant I had to do about four mattress runs to re-qualify for Diamond status. I am lucky enough to live within an easy driving distance to several inexpensive Hyatts in the Houston area, so getting inexpensive stays is not very hard. I track my stays closely, and by about October it was clear I was not going to hit 25 stays this year without a few mattress runs. So, I started to really pay attention to the 48 hour Hyatt sales that pop up every month or so. These are normally not all that useful as they are prepaid and non-refundable. However, in my case that didn’t matter. I used Travelocity.com and looked for the cheapest dates available for those properties by viewing 60 days at a time (just leave the date off when you are searching for hotels in a city).
Many of those dates fell close to Thanksgiving. I was able to get nights in the $55 – $69 range at some properties in North Houston. I hate mattress runs like this as they are such a waste, but the economics make sense. Spending around $250 to get the remaining four stays will more than pay for itself – heck, my recent New York trip at Hyatts pretty much brought us that much value in just a few days.
The good news is that I actually did get a fair bit of value for the $250 I spent on my “un-needed” stays by timing them carefully. First, I get 500 – 1,000 Diamond amenity points for each stay (just 500 for Hyatt House or Hyatt Place stays, but 1,000 for full-service Hyatts). I also earn 5x Gold Passport points on the stays, plus a 30% Diamond bonus. I earned points on credit cards for the stays. There are a million options, but to keep things simple I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for effectively 2.14 Ultimate Reward points per dollar (2x for travel + 7% annual dividend). However, the SPG Business Amex that gives 3% off Hyatt Hotels (5% starting in January) + 1 SPG point per dollar is also a great choice for Hyatt stays.
What I did differently from The Points Guy is commit to all but one of my mattress runs during a promotion period. Since I hate waste, I want to at least get as much value as possible from my unnecessary stays, so I did most of them during the recent Imagine the Possibilities Hyatt promo that ended on 11/30. During this promotion you earned 5,000 bonus points for the first 5 nights, and then 10,000 bonus points for each additional set of 5 nights up to max of 65,000 bonus points. I already had 7 nights during that promotion, but since I timed 3 of my mattress run nights during that promotion I ended up with 15,000 bonus points. Had I not timed my nights during that promotion I would have missed out on 10,000 points.
In the end, $250 for four mattress runs netted me 3,000 points from Diamond amenity bonuses, an extra 10,000 points from the recent promo, approximately 1,625 points from regular points + 30% Diamond bonus, and roughly 535 Ultimate Reward points by paying with my Chase Sapphire Preferred. That comes to 15,160 points that I value at a minimum of 1.5 cents each – and usually redeem for about 2 cents each. That means about $227 in value was earned from the points. That makes the stays almost a wash if you look at it that way. Of course, most of all it also helped me re-qualify for Diamond for all of 2013.
If you find yourself in a similar situation next year, I recommend doing your mattress run stays during a promotion. This is easier toward the end of the year than at the beginning since you have a clearer picture of all your actual stays. There is no reason not to make the most out of stays you don’t actually need.
Did you do something similar this year or in previous years to attain elite hotel status?
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